Studio theater

A studio theater in the College of Music & Dramatic Arts on Oct. 15, 2019. 

A dead horse that I have and will continue to relentlessly kick throughout my time as a columnist and beyond is that the arts and humanities are owed much more of our time and attention than we presently give them.

While our university’s love for sports is unparalleled, and our administration never neglects a chance to boast about the university's latest accomplishments from the world of STEM or business, the arts and humanities must contend with scraps of tepid acknowledgement.

It is certainly not the case that there is nothing of value happening in the arts on campus—countless students and faculty from a variety of disciplines are doing spectacular artistic work.

In fact, we received a much-appreciated reminder of this just the other week.

Theatre performance senior Sophia Brazda wrote and directed a dazzling honors thesis in the form of a play entitled “GOD GUN!" Under the formal supervision of theater professor John Fletcher, Brazda rounded up a team of undergraduates, graduate students and alumni to build a full-length production from the ground up.

The show follows the staff of The Columbus Post—presumably a national newspaper comparable to The Washington Post—as the world trembles in the grips of cataclysmic occurrences some have confidently deemed “the end times.”

However, opinion columnist and ex-seminarian Scott Butler, played by senior Nicholas Russo, is not convinced. In an article titled “Opinion: Global Phenomena Born of Natural Causes,” he dismisses the public’s hysteria as mere superstition.

Naturally, in a scene that any experienced opinion columnist knows well, Butler is flooded with hate mail from across the country.  

Things crank up a notch near the end of the first act when Jean, the office head of HR played by Arden Forrand, brings Butler a special package from God Himself. Needless to say, things spiral into hilarious absurdity from there.  

There isn't much I can say by way of summary after the first act. In an experimental twist, the entire second act was completely improvised, inevitably meaning that the ending of every performance, and ultimately the way in which one experienced every performance, was entirely unique.

This was undoubtedly the show’s most impressive feat. Brazda, whom I was lucky enough to chat with after my viewing of the show, plans on synthesizing the various second acts into a fully cohesive “mega-act,” as she terms it, that would take the best points from every performance.

The set design was effectively minimal. The entirety of the show takes place in and around an office cubicle, furnished solely by an empty desk, chair, office phone and, occasionally, an outdated MacBook.  

Interestingly, the famously sterile setting of a corporate office evokes heightened feelings of both foreboding and comedy that play off one another quite well throughout the show.

The fact that the show presents us with, in one sense at least, a vision of the apocalypse as seen from a cubicle is quite funny. One cannot help but laugh as the mundane world of HR and op-eds collides with the world of divine destiny and celestial beings. It is the sort of absurdity that might arise from a crossover between “The Office” and Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”

However, there is also something unsettling about this juxtaposition of the ordinary and supernatural. It quietly invites a reflection on modern life and its divorce from the spiritual. Brazda acknowledged this thematic exploration by describing the play as “a love-letter to the recovering Catholic, kids who grew up very religious and find themselves adrift as adults.”

Needless to say, the show was a refreshing and much-needed reminder of the artistic talent present on campus. The university may not have widely publicized the ingenious play, but luckily Brazda and the cast of “GOD GUN!” did not need much help from the university to get their show to the masses. They, a completely student-run production, managed to sell out all five of their shows. 

Perhaps I am understating the show’s potential as a mere “reminder” of the artistic talent present on campus. It also a brilliant model for talented students looking to capture the attention of our largely philistine campus.  

Evan Leonhard is a 21-year-old English and philosophy junior from New Orleans. 

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